Elnaz Rekabi: Family home of Iranian climber demolished

Elnaz Rekabi: Family home of Iranian climber demolished

The family villa of Elnaz Rekabi – an Iranian climber who competed abroad with her hair uncovered – has reportedly been demolished.

Ms Rekabi, 33, broke Iran’s mandatory dress code at the contest in South Korea – but later said her headscarf had fallen off “inadvertently”.

The BBC was told her apology was forced.

Opposition to the headscarf has fuelled protests that have swept Iran, with the climber being hailed as a hero.

A video showing the ruins of a house with sports medals on the ground started circulating this week.

Davood – Elnaz Rekabi’s brother and also a top athlete – is seen crying in the video.

Anti-government activists denounced it as an act of revenge against Ms Rekabi – although it is not clear when the footage was shot.

Now, the semi-official Tasnim news agency has confirmed that the house has been demolished, but says this was due to the family not having a valid permit for its construction.

It said all this took place before Ms Rekabi competed without a headscarf in October.

Women in Iran are required to cover their hair with a headscarf, or hijab, and their arms and legs with loose clothing. Female athletes must also abide by the dress code when they are officially representing Iran in competitions abroad.

A large crowd greeted Ms Rekabi at Tehran airport after the competition in South Korea, calling her a “heroine”. She arrived at the airport without a headscarf, covering her hair with a black baseball cap and hoodie.

The next day she met the Iranian sports minister with the same clothes on, which raised suspicion that she had not been home during that time.

The source said Ms Rekabi was detained in a room at Iran’s National Olympic Committee building with plainclothes agents present until she met the minister.

The day before returning to Iran, a post on Ms Rekabi’s Instagram account apologised for “getting everybody worried”.

“Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off,” it explained.

However, the source said that authorities threatened to take her family’s property if she did not make the statement.

Meanwhile, a prominent Iranian film actress, Mitra Hajjar, has reportedly been released on bail after being arrested by Iranian authorities attempting to stem anti-government protests.

A government critic for several years, Ms Hajjar previously condemned the execution of activist Ruhollah Zam, who documented online the mass demonstrations in 2019.